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Nvidia’s Kal-El SoC Used for ARM-Based Hybrid Supercomputer

November 14, 2011

Barcelona Supercomputing Center’s (BSC) project of building an exascale supercomputer powered by ARM chips seems to gain traction as the research institute recently announced a prototype system that will be built around Tegra 3 SoC, also know under the code name of Kal-El.
The prototype will pair Nvidia’s system-on-a-chip device with NVIDIA GPUs on a hardware board designed by SECO, in order to accelerate a
variety of scientific research projects. BSC’s ultimate research goal is to deliver exascale-level performance while using 15 to 30 times less power than current supercomputer architectures.
This so called EU Mont-Blanc Project will explore next-generation HPC architectures and develop a portfolio of exascale applications that run efficiently on these kinds of energy-efficient, embedded mobile technologies. “In most current systems, alone consume the lion’s share of the energy, often 40 percent or more,” said Alex Ramirez, leader of the Mont-Blanc Project. “By comparison, the Mont-Blanc architecture will rely on energy-efficient
compute accelerators and ARM processors used in embedded and mobile devices to achieve a four- to 10-times increase in energy-efficiency by 2014.”
In addition, has also announced plans to develop a new hardware and software development kit to support similar ARMbased initiatives around the world. The kit is expected to be available in the first half of 2012, and will be supported by the Nvidia parallel programming toolkit. The Mont-Blanc project brings together hardware companies such as Bull, ARM, and Gnodal, the latter being in charge with developing the interconnect used in the upcoming exascale machine. Besides the technology providers, Mont-Blanc unites supercomputing centres from the four Tier-0 hosting partners in PRACE (Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe) who have roles in system software and exascale application development.